On a recent British chat show that was dealing with the topic of infidelity, one of the participants was denying the fact that she’d had an affair.
“I didn’t have an affair. It was a relationship that involved sex”, she said. To me, that just sounded like a poor justification for cheating on her partner. However, I then realised that it is how the individual or, more importantly, a couple defines an affair. If a couple agree that an affair is something that involves more than sex e.g. companionship, understanding, empathy etc., then pure sex alone cannot be defined as an affair in the eyes of such a couple.
Personally, I would define an affair as an ongoing, dishonest relationship with someone other than your partner, which involves intense feelings such as deep affection, love or lust. By dishonest, I mean a relationship that is deliberately kept secret from the regular partner or one that involves deceit, such as lying to your partner about where you’re going, where you’ve been, why you’re late home or why you didn’t come home at all.
Iwould regard any intimate physical contact with someone other than your partner as being unfaithful and that includes kissing, but a one-night stand is not an affair, it’s a one-off act of infidelity.
When I asked my partner what his definition of an affair was, he said, “Spending quality time with anyone other than your partner”, to which he immediately received certain favours for giving a more than adequate reply! When I then accused him of having an affair with his mates, with whom he enjoys the occasional game of football, he re-phrased that to, “Spending quality time with someone of the opposite sex then.” Unless you happen to be gay or bisexual, in which case spending time with someone of either sex who is not your partner would meet the criteria of an affair.
My very possessive friend Julia, 33, told me that her definition of being unfaithful was, “Having lustful thoughts about someone other than your partner.” If we all agreed with that definition, then I imagine everybody has been disloyal at some time in his or her life, even if it was only through a dream whilst asleep!
Awork colleague of my partner had this to say. “There’s nothing wrong with sleeping with someone purely for sexual gratification, even if you are in a long-term relationship. If there is no other feeling involved, then there is no threat to the relationship and it can therefore not be regarded as an affair. Just because you sleep with someone, does not mean that you have all the other feelings of love, respect and complete adoration that you have for your partner, so how can it be classed as betrayal?”
Respect? How could he have the audacity to use the word respect? This particular chap is still single at 32 years of age and seems to have difficulty in holding down a relationship for any length of time. How odd.
If you have any respect for your partner and, certainly, if you really love your other half, there is no way that you would even consider seeking gratification elsewhere. What about the guilt, the consequences from being caught out and the possibility that you may end up re-enacting a horrible scene from Fatal Attraction? Besides, as Paul Newman said of his lifelong marriage to Joanne Woodward, “Why go out for a hamburger when you can have steak at home?”
As far as I am concerned, if you are happy, then you don’t have an affair, a one-night stand or even a passionate clinch in a drunken moment. Blaming the alcohol is another over-used, pathetic and completely non-feasible excuse for having a fling. Alcohol just gives you the courage to follow up your intentions, to act out some intimate scenario about which you have already fantasised.
One guy who found out the hard way is Simon, 34. “My ex-fiancé, Amanda, was the most wonderful and trusting woman that I have ever had the privilege to know. But I threw away everything that I had by abusing her trust and having, what can only be classified as, a knee trembler in the toilets at an office Christmas party. My guilt led me to confide in a friend, but he betrayed me by telling his wife, who in turn told my fiancé. As you can imagine, she was absolutely and totally crushed and it still tears me apart now, five years on, to think about the pain that I caused her. Naturally, she ended the relationship immediately, because as far as she was concerned, I was not the person she thought I was and she said that her faith in me had been completely destroyed.
I have never since met another woman quite like her and I will have to live with the guilt of what I did for the rest of my life. Every woman I meet I compare to Amanda and no one has even come close. I recently heard that she had got married and I can’t tell you how shattered I felt. I suppose I thought that maybe she would forgive me and that we could start over again, but in reality I didn’t deserve her.
I didn’t have what I would term as an affair, but what I did was equally as devastating to my partner and it is something that I would never do again. If I were unhappy in a relationship, I would end it first before embarking on another romantic or physical liaison.”
Some couples agree on having an open relationship, allowing each other the freedom to have other sexual partners, yet even in these relationships there are rules.
Christine, 48 and Brian, 52 are one such couple, who have both had numerous sexual partners whilst they have been married to each other, but who clearly love each other deeply.
Brian said, “Christine and I had been married for about three years, when we watched a programme on couples who have open relationships. We had openly joked about it previously, but it was only after watching this programme that we started to consider it as a real option for ourselves. There wasn’t anything wrong with our relationship and our sex life was relatively good, but there were certain techniques and fantasies that I would liked to have carried out, but that Christine wasn’t keen on and vice versa. Eventually, we decided to sleep with other people in order to fulfil the areas that were missing sexually, but that is all. And I have to say that since starting this eight years ago, our own relationship has gone from strength to strength”
Christine continues, “We sat down and discussed the subject at great length and agreed on what we would and wouldn’t tolerate. I must admit that I wasn’t as keen on the idea as Brian initially, because the thought that he may actually fall in love with one of his partners was a major concern. However, I also knew that a sound relationship isn’t built on sex alone and that, ultimately, if our relationship continued to be as strong as it had been, then it would continue, irrespective of who Brian met.”
Both Christine and Brian agree that even when they sleep with a partner more than once, it does not constitute an affair, because by their definition, an affair is only classed as such if it means being unfaithful to your partner. If both partners have agreed on an open relationship, then they are not being disloyal to each other.
Although there appears to be no clear definition of an affair, one thing is evident. A couple has to establish firm ground rules about what is and isn’t acceptable conduct, before entering into a long-term commitment.